Losing Time
- or -
How, Despite my Best Efforts, I successfully U-hauled from Chicago to Palm Springs by Depending on the Partially Remunerated Kindness of Strangers

Chapter One:  Prologue
Chapter Two:  He Ain't a Crack Addict Bum, he's my Furniture Mover
Chapter Three:  The Truck Who Sang Bleeds to Death
Chapter Four:   Attacked by Indians
Chapter Five:   Why I've Never Liked Winona Ryder


First a couple of explanations for the ignorant.   For those of you in technologically impoverished lands, let me explain what the term "U-hauled" means.   As you'll find out if you have the intelligence and moral fortitude to continue reading this glorious account, it does at times feel somewhat similar to being keel-hauled, but actually the two terms are unrelated.   In fact, "U-haul" is a visionary American company created to allow people to hire a truck and move themselves from one part of America to another.   I wrote that last sentence myself, but actually right there on the U-haul history page is the "V" word, so maybe I've missed my calling and I should have been an advertising copywriter.   Of course I was just being facetious, but I think the U-haul people actually expect you to believe that they are visionary rather than mercenary.

OK, here's the second thing to get clear before we go on.  Palm Springs is in California, it's not in Florida.   When I told people where I was moving to, about half of them thought I was going down to Florida, which Homer Simpson memorably described as the wang of America.   Look on a map and you'll immediately see the truth of what he said.   Actually, I like Florida and I'd really like to live there, because of the warm weather and all of the opportunities for wildlife photography.   Three times now, when I've been looking for work it seemed like I was just on the point of getting a job down in Florida, but instead I ended up in New Jersey (which many people consider the Armpit of America, but which really wasn't so bad) or Chicago (which happened twice due, I suspect, to a previous life as a mass murderer or worse).

Driving a 32 foot U-haul truck while towing a trailer with your car on it is a bit like flying a world war two B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.   There's marginally less chance that you'll be attacked by Germans, but it's still a lot of effort.   You have to continually adjust the controls just to stay in a straight line, and if it's windy, as it was for me all the way from Chicago down to Phoenix, then it becomes even more of a handful.

One of the most exciting aspects about driving a large U-haul truck is dealing with 18 wheelers, the American term for large articulated trucks.   There are an awful lot of these plying their trade on the interstate freeway system.   As they pass, the large volume of air they're pushing in front of them pushes you to the right, and then the slight vacuum behind them sucks you back to the left.   A lot of people complain about them, but I haven't experienced any unprofessional behavior from them, except perhaps when one or more of them tries to overtake you up a hill or something and then finds that the truck doesn't have enough power to get past you, and sometimes you even start going faster than they are.

Aside from the physical and mental effort of driving long distances with a truck and trailer, and the intimidation of 18 wheelers, there are other things which make driving a large U-haul tricky.   Around town, you have to go very wide to get around corners, since the truck is much larger than a car.   You have to anticipate lane changes very early, because the truck doesn't have good acceleration, and your only hope is to find a very large gap to ease into - not always easy in urban driving.   And don't even think about backing up when you've got a trailer attached - while attempting that feat, I almost got myself firmly jammed at a gas station before even leaving Chicago.   Finally, the truck takes much longer to stop than a car does, a fact which many other motorists are blissfully ignorant of.   If you look closely, you can even see the sticker in front of my steering wheel in the photo, which reads "warning:  anticipate stops and brake early.".   All in all, U-hauling is not for the faint of heart.  Perhaps I could sell that as a slogan to the U-haul company - "Not For The Faint Of Heart" - pretty snappy, don't you think?